Heart of America Marathon
Labor Day heart2.gif (4940 bytes) Columbia, Missouri

1984 Report

By Joe Marks

Hal Higdon loved it. Frank Curotto conquered it. Debbie Hoxworth barely endured it. And 20 percent of the starters didn't even survive it.

The 25th annual Heart of America Marathon lived up to its advance billing: "Hills, heat, humidity. . .one of the toughest in the nation. . .no run for wimps." Those who shared the experience might as well just talk to each other about the 25th Heart; no one else will believe them.

There were mudholes and trains and dogs and devastating humidity and a disappearing aid station or two. Sleek striders were transformed into staggering, sloppy, sweat¬soaked sloggers.

But out of all that, there were plenty of winners: the 108 who finished; the 132 who tried; and all those who contributed to the Silver Anniversary celebration. So here are a few salutes:

--To Frank Curotto who finally won after seven tries. His previous best was 2:39:34 in 1982. He finished fourth in both '82 and '83. Curotto's splits were 1:18:17 and 1:18:25. None of the other contenders came within a mile of that consistency. After the run, the normally exuberant 30 -year¬ old was even more so. But he seemed surprised, too. HOA was his third race that week, and he hadn't expected to win. He never dreamed he would win by that much.

--To Jon Herbert, three-time defending champion, who hung on as long as he could (just over the top of Easley Hill), fell back, but never gave up. His time was about 14 minutes slower than his previous best HOA. Undoubtedly, the marathon he ran just 13 days before had taken its toll. He admitted the double was a mistake; HOA deserves one's full attention.

--To Debbie Hoxworth who repeated as the women's champion in the closest race in history. At 18 miles, Hoxworth led Chris Ruble by 7 minutes, 14 seconds; at 21 miles by 6:55, at 24, by 3:24; at the finish, by 23 seconds. Both women deserve a ton of credit. Hoxworth hung on despite some nasty cramps, and Ruble ran a PB under extremely tough conditions.

--To all the returning champions. Hal Higdon, who won in 1968, just loved the way HOA "treats runners as they deserve to be treated - with antagonism."

Alex Ratelle enjoyed his weekend by playing games with Higdon. He kept changing his mind about whether to enter the 8K or the marathon, just so he could avoid head-to-head competition with Higdon. Finally, at the starting line, when he was convinced Higdon was going with the marathon, he opted for the 8K (which he ran in a little over 29 minutes.. .not bad for a 29-year-old.

Dennis Hinkamp, HOA's record-holder, enjoyed his weekend by watching his 1977 time pass out of sight of this year's contenders before they got to 25 miles. The night before, at the pre-race buffet, he noted that he hadn't run since knee surgery in April and that he wouldn't try HOA again until his record was broken.

Bill Silverburg, who won HOA in 1961 and 1962, resigned his coaching job at Oklahoma University and is now picking up diamonds in east Africa. He finished second in the 40-49 division of the 8K.

Joe Schroeder, who won the first Heart of America Marathon in 1960, not only entertained us with that story at the buff€t (he ran the 26.2 miles in spikes!) but he showed up at the marathon start and ran the first two miles.

Also, returning champions for the 25th Anniversary celebration were Liz Bulman, Steve Stonecipher-Fisher and Denton Childs. They were all winners in the 8K, too.

Bill Fox won his age division and finished fourth overall, Lou Fritz ran his 20th straight HOA and finished ninth overall, and Larry Lewis, 50, ran a 3:06:44 and finished ahead of Hal Higdon in his age division.

The Dave Schulte Award went to Stephen Mineck, Vinton, Iowa, who improved his previous best performance by 30.09%.

62 degrees at the start, 97& humidity, 100% cloud cover all the way.


From the Co umbia Missourian


It was a day for winner Sunday, as the 25th annual Heart of America Marathon ran its course through the back roads of southern Boone County.

There were winners like Stephen Mineck, who won the Dave Schulte Award as the most improved runner; Lou Fritz, who in placing ninth overall, completed his 20th consecutive Heart; and Chris Zinselmeier, who running in his first marathon ever, was the first rookie to finish.

But the story of the day was the races of Frank Curotto and Debbie Hoxworth, the overall winners in their respective divisions.

Curroto's victory was perhaps the most impressive. The 30-year-old from Kirkwood, running in his sixth Heart and third race this week, did not plan on winning. In fact, all of the pre-race predictions pointed to a sure win for three ¬time defending champion Jon Herbert. Curroto was not even mentioned as a contender.

But when the race was over 2 hours, 36 minutes and 42 seconds later, Curroto had won and Herbert was nowhere around. The time was slow, but Curroto was elated. "I'm more pleased about winning than about by time," he said between gasps of air.

Through the half-way point, it seemed as though Herbert would have no trouble winning his fourth Heart in a row. He held almost a one minute lead over his nearest competitors, Bill Fox and Curroto, and was looking strong.

But the race changed at the 17-mile checkpoint. Fox had dropped back and Curroto was next to Herbert. From then on, it was all Curroto.

At the checkpoint where Curroto took the lead was Dennis Hinkamp. He holds the course record at the Heart with his 2:29:15 clocking in 1977. Hinkamp stressed that the key to victory was to run at an even pace, and it seemed as though Curroto was listening.

After running the first 13.1 miles in 1:18:17, Curroto responded with a second half almost as fast. His 1:18:25 finish was good enough to put him nearly eight minutes ahead of second-place Herbert. Larry McMahon, of St. Louis, was third, while Fox, of Tarkio, Mo., held on for fourth place.

Hoxworth of Boulder, Colo. took the women's division with a time of 3:25:45. A mere 23 seconds faster than women's runnerup Chris Ruble of Columbia.

The Colorado native's time was good enough for a 46th place finish overall.

In winning the Dave Schulte award, Mineck, 35, from Vinton, Iowa, received the highest honor the Heart organizers give. The award is given annually to the marathoner that improves most on his previous time. Mineck' s 3: 09: 39 was a 30 per cent improvement over his time of 4:34 in 1978.

According to Columbia Track Club President, Joe Duncan, the Dave Schulte award represents all who are connected with the Heart. It is presented in honor of a track club member who died of cancer in 1972.

Another runner who tried Sunday was Zinselmeier. In his first marathon ever, Zinselmeier admits he might have made a mistake in running the Heart because of its hard course. But when it was all over, he was glad that he did.

"I'm happy just to say that I have done it," the 22-year-¬old University student explained. "And to do it on a course like this one makes it that much better."

Zinselmeier was referring to the course that has been called the hardest non-mountain marathon in the country. Six major hills of over one-half mile each plagued the racers throughout the morning, the longest of which comes at 15 miles, Easley Hill.

Easley Hill brought most of the 140 marathoners to a snail's pace, including William Stark, a professor of biology at the University.

"I was walking up the hill when I realized that the guys in front of me who were running were getting no further than I was," Stark recalled.

Hal Higdon, winner of the Heart in 1968 who had not returned since, placed second in the over-50 division this year. He seemed to enjoy the Columbia race better than the hundreds of others he had run in."

"This is really the way we used to run them back then," he said, comparing the Heart to the "sanitized" New York and Chicago events. "This is the one real race left in the country where you don't have to pay $50,000 to go out and run."

From the "Columbia Missourian" October 15, 1984